WXXI AM News

Joel Seligman's first interview since announcing he will be resigning

Jan 12, 2018

In his first interview since announcing his resignation, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman covered a wide range of topics with WXXI News.

And they include the reasons for his stepping down.

Seligman, who announced Thursday he would leave at the end of February, already indicated he was leaving basically to help the UR campus heal after the controversy over sexual harassment allegations against a professor and how the administration handled that situation.

Credit rochester.edu

But he elaborated on that when he spoke with me on Friday. He says that actually, he had been thinking about the possibility for the last month.

"This was potentially eroding confidence, not just in me, but in the University of Rochester and because of this, as I reflected upon it, I became convinced that it was essential.”

Seligman says he felt that the entire issue had become such a massive distraction that the university just needed a fresh start.

Seligman also talked about the report released this week through an independent investigation, which he feels was largely on the mark, and he lamented what he says was a rush to judgement on allegations rather than evidence.

Here are some of the other comments he made:

Also on his decision to resign:

“What I had come to believe is , this had become such a massive distraction to the campus and had so focused attention on one issue and obscured the great achievements of the campus systematically and so much else , that I came to realize the institution needed a fresh start.”

The impact on the UR campus overall:

“What mattered was always, how do you restore the self-confidence and pride that all 2,780 professors here, all 11,000 or so students here, all 100, 000 alumni, deserve?”

His concern with the impact of the 24-hour news cycle:

‘The fact that in effect this case was tried, not before an independent fact-finder or not before a court of law, but rather in the court of public opinion, where the side that screams loudest, tends to prevail, not necessarily the side with the merits or the capacity to prove things.”

He agrees with the findings of former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White that the university administration did not engage in retaliation against those who filed the complaint:

“We have systematically promoted the complainants, we have supported them in receiving awards, we have given them pay increases. There is a difference between disagreeing with them in conventional, intellectual matters in a department which happens all the time, and as a constructive matter must happen, all the time, and retaliation

When asked about his overall legacy of 12 and a half years as president?

“Legacy is in the perception of others; what I could control was one thing, and that is, every day I did my best, and every day I put the best interests of the university first, and that I’m very proud of”